Chapter 17 – The King of Kurkans
It’s said that if a beast is shackled from birth, then he won’t break away from it even after growing up.
Leah was well aware of this fact. The beast wouldn’t break the shackles, not because it loved or feared its master, but because it was so used to captivity
Even if someone taught the beast how to break free, it still wouldn’t try. Some would call the beast foolish for not doing it, but maybe the thought of shackles were deeply ingrained in its mind that it wouldn’t even think that breaking free was possible.
Leah was the same. But, she feared the queen instead.
And every moment, she had feared for her life.
The queen was Leah’s biggest nightmare.
All tragedies start with a blazing love. The king fell in love at first sight with a country girl while attending a banquet. Her frank tone and bright smile were something mesmerized the king, who had never seen something like that before. Thus, the girl who grew up in a small family in the province became the queen of Estia.
However, merely being good didn’t let her survive in the palace. With no one backing her up, she slowly became thinner day by day. All she could do was cling on to the king’s love.
At the pinnacle of her misery, Leah was born. She experienced labor complications and barely managed to give birth. Afterwards, she was rendered infertile.
A barren queen was a disgrace to the royal family, and the once blazing love fell cold… The powerless, weak king easily complied with the demands of the greedy nobles who wanted to depose the queen. Soon after, she was driven out of the palace in a miserable shape.
It happened when Leah was just three years old. She couldn’t even clearly comprehend things at that age, but her mother’s last words were vivid in her memory.
I’m sorry Leah, I’m very sorry.
You should continue to live…
Do not disobey Cerdina.
Just follow her words, no matter what.
And with those last words, the queen was discovered dead. The royal family announced that the dejected queen had decided to end her life, but everyone knew it wasn’t suicide.
The ambitious Countess Cerdina replaced the throne her mother once occupied. However, Cerdina’s entry into the royal palace was tumultuous. She was carrying a baby boy.
The boy was Leah’s half brother. Queen Cerdina was in a relationship with the king even before the previous queen had been expelled.
This caused the society of Estia to descend into chaos. The fact that the new queen wasn’t a virgin and had an affair with the king caused turmoil.
Such a disgrace…
However, with her powerful family and the king’s favour, she was able to get her son declared as the heir to the throne, causing the clamor against her to fade away.
The highly ambitious, cunning Cerdina always claimed, “I know nothing about the complicated politics and the government. Wouldn’t it be enough for me to carry out all my domestic duties?” However, she was as vicious as a viper and was able to dominate the nobles and turn them into her puppets.
Cerdina knew very well how to handle the daughter of the deposed queen. She carefully planned her moves, making sure not to do anything that would make it seem like she discriminating against Leah outright. Instead, she controlled the princess’ every move, molding her nature and habits to her liking. Slowly, she tightened her hold over Leah’s life.
“You are the flower of Estia.”
The queen’s words were seared into her mind at a young age. It was the reason for Leah’s obsession. She had to become the perfect princess of Estia—her education, work, and beauty needed to be flawless.
She was no different from Estia’s art pieces. A cattle raised by the queen, and once fat, sold to the market. This was her purpose all along.
Only the people closest to her knew the truth about how Cerdina secretly abused her. The others were ignorant and spoke highly of the queen and her kind-hearted and benevolent motherly nature.
Leah wanted to scream at such people and ask them, ‘What is the use of raising me to be perfect…? In the end, didn’t she just sell me off to that old Byung Gyeongbaek?’
Leah stood in front of the mirror, and a beautifully dressed doll-like woman stared back at her.
Her pale face was covered with layers of bright make-up. Her thin, lifeless hair was curled up into an up-do. Her purple eyes seemed even more vivid in contrast to the dark eyeliner on her lids. On her neck was the diamond necklace that Byun Gyeonbaek had gifted her, completing the whole look.
“Princess, I’ll finish making the final adjustments to your attire.”
Leah gave her a small nod in reply. The reason for Leah’s extraordinarily beautiful appearance was the conference with the Kurkans.
The rest of the palace was busy preparing for the banquet. As expected, all the nobles had expressed their desire to attend the banquet. In fact, even nobles for all the other countries were visiting Estia for this special occasion.
Everyone was looking forward to seeing the new king of Kurkans and Byun Gyeonbaek meet each other.
The coward Byun immediately went on the defense when he heard the king was visiting, despite the news that their visit sought peace.
People were well aware of the fact that Byun wouldn’t be able to maintain his current level of power if Kurkan and Estia entered into a peace treaty. So, they speculated that Queen Cerdina was making moves in order to take Byun down for the sake of the crown prince.
However, despite the intense political battle brewing underneath, above the surface, a warm and friendly atmosphere arose. Everyone was excited to see the Kurkans, who were known for their breath-taking, outstanding appearances. Leah’s maids talked about that daily.
Finally, the day the Kurkans would visit arrived. The welcome banquet would be held the day after. Right now, they were going to formally greet their visitors. Thus, Cerdina specifically instructed Leah to dress up extravagantly in order to show off the royal family’s pride.
And so, Leah ended up in this painful, uncomfortable dress.
As the maids dressed Leah, Baroness Sinael suddenly burst into laughter while chatting with them. Leah smiled faintly and asked, “What are you talking about?”
The maid replied with flushed cheeks, “They say that the king of the Kurkans is an extremely handsome man.”
Countess Melissa, the head of the maids, gave them a menacing glare as she cleared her throat. Immediately, the rest of them stopped chattering, but Leah put them at ease with a light grin.
It was never good to be overwhelmingly strict. Instead, she lightened the atmosphere since everyone was so excited. But right at that moment, Leah suddenly felt a great amount of pressure from her guts.
At the distance, underneath the warm rays of the sun, ships were nearing the shore of Estia.
They have arrived.